A recent editorial criticized designing the Hilton Head Island Airport runway extension while completing the environmental impact assessment and the cost-benefit analysis, suggesting it doesn't make good business sense.
To the contrary, it would be a prudent to design the extension in 2012 because the risk of proceeding too slowly dwarfs the risk (if any) of proceeding too fast.
The opportunity is that the extension would be completed sooner, perhaps in 2013, rather than 2015 as projected.
At issue is the trade-off between two risks: taking too long to complete the extension and losing commercial service versus not getting reimbursed for the estimated $640,000 design cost. Since the airport receives a minimum of $1 million annually from the Federal Aviation Administration, it is a matter of when, not if, the county gets reimbursed. Proceeding with the design in 2012 is more prudent than spending the planned $2 million on terminal improvements, money wasted if commercial service is lost.
Designing the extension in parallel will not compromise the environmental assessment. There is little reason to believe that this assessment will differ from the two assessments for tree removal and trimming at each end of the runway. The cost-benefit analysis will not be compromised; it is expected to confirm previous cost justifications.
One could argue the wisdom of either starting with the assessment or the design as they are potentially interrelated. But completing them along with the analysis presents the best opportunity to coordinate potentially conflicting issues, optimize the design and minimize impact on the community.
Stu RodmanFinance Committee chairmanBeaufort County CouncilHilton Head Island